Ina Fried

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BlackBerry Hoping Long-Awaited U.S. Launch Pays Off

BlackBerry 10 EventBlackBerry officials say they are pleased with the early response in the two dozen or so countries where the company’s all-new phones have launched.

However, the Canadian company’s comeback effort will face a key test Friday when its first BlackBerry 10 device, the Z10, hits retail stores in the U.S.

“We are launching in the U.S. on the back of a successful launch in now more than 25 countries, and we expect the U.S. market to be no different,” BlackBerry Chief Marketing Officer Frank Boulben said in an interview on Thursday.

Launching in the U.S. took longer than other key markets due to regulatory requirements and carrier testing; however, that is often the case here, Boulben said. And, in the meantime, the number of apps available has grown to 100,000, up from the 70,000 that were ready when the Z10 was first announced on Jan. 30.

Frank Boulben“We’ve strengthened our ecosystem,” Boulben said.

While the 100,000 number is impressive, it includes a mix of both native applications and Android apps that have been certified to run via an emulation engine. BlackBerry has not thus far said how many apps fall into each category.

Boulben said the company’s goal is to very quickly establish BlackBerry 10 as a strong third ecosystem in the U.S. market. He didn’t give a specific time frame but noted that, in terms of devices sold per month, BlackBerry could get to the third spot very quickly.

BlackBerry is planning its largest-ever marketing campaign for the new devices, a campaign that Boulben promised will be both visible and sustained as the company promotes BlackBerry as the best for those seeking to maximize productivity in their personal and professional lives.

The all-touch Z10 is the first in a line of about a half-dozen BlackBerry devices coming over the next 12 months, Boulben said. The keyboard-equipped Q10 should start shipping in the first countries in April but won’t hit the U.S. for some time.

In general, BlackBerry has said in any given country the launch of the Q10 will follow the Z10 by about eight weeks. That should be about the same in the U.S., Boulben said, but added that carriers will play a role.

“Obviously, we don’t control it fully,” he said.

Boulben wouldn’t comment on what devices will follow, but sources have told AllThingsD that Sprint plans to launch an all-touch BlackBerry 10 phone later this year that is something of a successor to the Z10.


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